Thursday, May 12, 2016


We’re back for a 36th installment of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff… another jam-packed edition. In addition to questions from fans and readers, I've also pulled questions from writing groups/blogs/facebook as well. Thanks for all of the amazing questions. Please, keep ‘em coming. I absolutely love answering them. Yes, even the silly ones from time to time.

You can check out all of the past installments of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff... here.

Okay, let's dive in, shall we? The first one is a doozy.

Q: Why don't you do/use a Kickstarter for your next project?

I get this question, or some varying degree of it, often. I’ve avoided answering it because I really don’t know how to put my thoughts into words on this topic. Just a couple of days ago, a friend and I had a similar discussion. He told me that I have a bias toward Kickstarter. Maybe he’s right.

First off, let me say that I think Kickstarter is a wonderful tool. There have been some great projects come out of it and I begrudge no one for using it and I've even backed one or two projects myself. 

So why don’t I use it, you ask? 

Click Read More to continue...

Well, that’s where the bias, for lack of a better term comes in, I suppose, comes in. Speaking only for myself and my projects, I feel like Kickstarter is not there for me. My feeling is that I shouldn’t be using Kickstarter to fund something that a publisher is going to print and distribute for me. Could I use the money? Sure, but I would rather put out a quality project and hope that readers will buy it. My friend made the case that he looks at Kickstarter as basically pre-ordering the book, which I admit makes a lot of sense as a reader. As a writer, if my publisher did a Kickstarter, I would start to wonder how I would be paid (this is my job, after all and I have to think about income) since the Kickstarter money would be fore production, art, coloring, promotion, printing, etc, not necessarily for me as the writer. Again, these are the thoughts running through my head. Because I'm not publishing it, what would the Kickstarter money be used for? 

There’s also the fact that, and this is the biggie for me, and this is a hard thing to admit to publicly like this, is that I have a hard enough time getting people to pony up between $10 - $15 for my books and novels that are on sale and available now. If I can’t convince readers to buy my work now on a finished piece of fiction, what are the odds they will send me money to write another one? Is that crazy? Maybe, but that’s the thought the runs through my head every time someone asks me why I don’t Kickstarter a project. Again, your mileage may vary.

There are a couple of projects in production that I have worked on where I have been told that the publishers are planning to use Kickstarter to help pay for production, art, coloring, etc. so we’ll see if I’m eating my own words a few months down the line. I might. Who knows? If I'm wrong, I'll be the first to admit it.

Again, and I repeat this so it’s not misconstrued. I have nothing against Kickstarter or anyone who uses it. I just don’t think it’s right for me. I don’t have a Patreon page for this very same reason. You guys tell me. If I were to put up a Patreon page or Kickstart a project, would you back it? I’m genuinely curious as I am being laid off from my day job and may be writing full time again and feeling the financial pinch soon.

Leave a comment below or drop me an email. I really would like to hear your thoughts.

Okay, enough of that. On with the fun questions!

Q: How do you create fresh and unique action scenes?

I love a good action scene. In addition to thrillers, I also write stories that are clearly pulpy in nature. Those stories are usually action-packed and filled with foot chases, hand-to-hand combat, gun fights, car chases, sword fights, and explosions. Those are all tropes of that type of story. The trick is learning how to write them in a way that is not the same way over and over again.

As with everything else, it all starts with character. Not every character will handle the same situation in the same way. If you were to put, for example, Captain America, MacGyver, James Bond, and Magnum p.i. in the same basic situation, each of them would have a way out of it unique to their character. That basic thought process applies to all action scenes. How would my character(s) handle things is how I approach it.

I also try not to be repetitive in how I describe things. It is easy to find descriptors that you like and keep repeating them, but you don't want to do that too often or else your reader will feel they have read this part before. One descriptor I find myself using the most often is in hand-to-hand combat when one character tackles the other to the ground as they brawl, I will write "and they hit the ground in a tangle of arms and legs" or something to that effect. The "tangle of arms and legs" part I catch myself using a lot so I have now become aware of it and change it from time to time. There are, however, times where I do it on purpose. A repetitive theme can be used to great effect.

I also like my action scenes to move fast so I write those scenes
using smaller sentences, eschewing from lengthy paragraphs in favor of short descriptors to rival the shorter lines of dialogue. This makes it move faster for the reader because he or she is moving through that passage faster than the one before and/or after the action, where I slow the pace back down and allow the reader, and the characters, to catch their breath.

Q: Do you need music or absolute silence when writing?

I like a little music playing when I’m writing. It doesn’t have to be anything specific like a playlist for characters or anything like that, but having music playing is better for me than absolute silence. As I get into the writing, the music fades into the background, almost like white noise.

I have burned many of my old CDs onto my laptop so I can play them or I turn on an on-line radio/music app. I’ve also gone to Youtube and let music videos play.

I like how music can magically transport me back into a scene from my story. In my first novel, Evil Ways, I have a scene set in a bar where one of the characters is on stage with the bar band singing covers. I listed off the next 3 songs that came on the radio and used them. One of those songs was Evil Ways. I liked it and started using it as a placeholder title until I came up with something better. As you can tell, the name stuck. Even now, all these years later, any of those songs transports me right back into that scene.

Music is definitely great for setting a mood.

Q: Do write over the weekends? What does this weekend look like for your writing goals?

Yes I do. My day job leaves me very little time to write during the week so I use the weekends to catch up. At least in theory. Sometimes, it doesn't work out that way. With the day job ending soon, we'll see what happens. I hope I won't be too long between jobs.

Q: What is your favorite movies that were based on a book?

JAWS, Die Hard, and Jurassic Park were all great movies. The books were good too, although I prefer the movies for JAWS and Die Hard. The Jurassic Park novel was better than the movie, I thought.

Q: Are you a one book at a time reader?

Sometimes, but not always. I generally read 1 novel at a time, but I may read a graphic novel or short story at the same time I'm reading the novel.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional detective?

It’s a toss-up between Thomas Magnum and Jim Rockford, I think. Rounding out the top 3 is Mike Hammer (I grew up with the Stacey Keach version). Of course, honorable mention goes to Rick Ruby.

Q: If you could write a superhero novel for any licensed character that you've never written before what would that be?

As a fan, I'd say Fantastic Four because I love those characters. However, thinking in terms of appeal, either Thor or Captain America.

Q: Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Of course. The cover is the first chance a book has to grab a reader. If the cover grabs you, you’re more likely to pick the book up and give it a look. Having the right cover makes a big difference. Look at the Domino Lady cover on the left. that is an eye-grabbing cover.

Q: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

 My evolution as a writer happened organically, I think. I started out wanting to be a comic book artist so I started writing stories I could draw. Eventually, other artists asked me to write stories for them. Eventually, on the advice of a friend, I started focusing on the writing over the art and was eventually able to get work as a writer. I look at every new book or project I work on as the next step on the stairwell that is my career.

Q: What are your thoughts on writing a book series.

I love book series. There are several that I follow as a reader myself. I also like to write them, although sometimes I think I have too many in the fire, which has slowed me down. At this time, there are series based on Evil Ways, Deadly Games!, Snow Falls, Ghost Gal, Lance Star: Sky Ranger, and Domino Lady are all series I work on. I also have a few other ideas. We’ll see what happens.

There is a lot of fun to be had revisiting the same characters again and again as both a writer and a reader. I love being able to continue the character's lives through multiple adventures, getting to know the characters well and seeing them grow and change. There's also a built in audience who will follow a series so that is an obvious plus for me as a writer.

Q: Who Are Your Top Three All Time Favorite Android/Robot TV Characters?

Twiki from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, R2-D2 from Star Wars, and Bigfoot from The Six Million Dollar Man. These are the first 3 that came to mind. Honorable mentions would include Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, K-9 from Doctor Who, Robot from Lost in Space, and Robby The Robot.

Q: While writing, do you take meal breaks? Or do you eat at the keyboard?

A little of both. When I eat at the keyboard, I tend not to actually eat and end up wasting food so I usually schedule a meal break, but a snack at the desk works just fine.

Q: When you know you will be writing a big scene, do you make a lot of preparation? Research choreography for weapon battle? Plan out the argument or conflict? Prepare emotionally for writing that scene?

No differently than when I'm writing any other scene. Emotional scenes sometimes take a bit to prepare for though.

Writing is a like a big ball of...
Q: When are you most productive as a writer? At the butt crack of dawn? Mid-morning? Afternoon? Evening? Or in the dead of night? When do the words flow most easily?

Late at night is best for me. Unfortunately, with a day job, that's not always feasible so I can write during the daytime too, which I do often. With my day job ending soon, I'll work out a new schedule.

Q: Are you a dream scribbler? Do you keep a notebook and pen beside your bed? Have these dreams actually ended up in a book you've written?

Not really. I used to, but then rarely used it. Same with a tape recorder. All it picked up was me snoring. I generally remember parts of my dreams so sometimes that works its way into a story. I have a short that I recently sold to a publisher that came from a dream. Of course, technology being what it is, if I do need to jot something down, I just grab the phone off my nightstand and email myself.

Q: Do you write straight in line from the beginning to the end?

Yes. On the first draft. Then, I go back and make tweaks, additions, deletions, etc.

Q: Do you fidget to come to the scene you'd have loved to write from the beginning, i.e. the scene that came up first and started the whole storymaking?

Not really. On a couple of occasions I wrote that scene first, but then had a hard time fitting it into the draft. Now, I make notes and then it slots into the story where it needs to go organically.

Q: Do you start out with that beloved scene and find out that writing is so much harder than imagining it?

Nah. I work it in my head and write it when I get to it.

Q: What do you do when you seriously need a break from writing? Read? Leave town? Bake? Take an auto maintenance class?

I get up and do something else. That can be laundry, read, take a walk, go to the store, watch TV, or whatever. Just getting away from the laptop for a short period of time will do it.

Q: Can you separate writing from your real world? Or does your imagination run full time, mixing things up?

The imagination works overtime, but for the most part, they're separate. There are times, I'll think of something I need to tell someone and it'll be a character. That doesn't happen often though.

Q: How many of your characters have forced a spin off or series?

I don't force my characters to do anything. They, on the other hand, have no problems forcing their desires on me. Ha! Ha! Ha! When I was writing Evil Ways, the character of Sheriff Tom Myers kept wanting more time in the spotlight, even though I had planned for him to be a secondary character. Turns out, he was a big part of the story. When I was writing Deadly Games!, set in the same small town, the sheriff was going to get a mention only and not appear in the story, but as the story progressed, Sheriff Myers not only became necessary to the plot, but once again he became an important character in the book. Now, the Sheriff wants his own spin off series and I have the ideas ready. I just need to slot them in my schedule.

Q: How do you develop your bad guys? Are you systematic about creating the antagonist, combining qualities and traits from people you know? Or do they just present themselves, whole and wicked?

I like to give my bad guys the same consideration I give my heroes. I try not to make them systematically evil for evil's sake, although that sometimes does happen as it is a trope of action, pulp, and super-hero stories, which I do tell from time to time. Sometimes they appear fully formed and ready to go, other times there are growing pains, same as with other characters. I enjoy getting to know them on the journey.

Q: What do you think the difference is between selling and allowing people to buy?

Selling is me doing multiple "Buy my book" posts on-line or doing hard sells at conventions and conferences, etc. This is a bit aggressive, but can also grab some potential reader's attention.

Allowing people to buy is me letting potential readers know there is a book and offering to let them have a look if they would like. This is a lot less aggressive than Selling, but is my preferred method, especially at conventions and appearances.

I've seen both types work in person and on-line. A lot of it depends on the person. I have a friend who gets great sales at cons by telling people “Hey. Come buy my shit” and points at his books. That gets people to look at his books. I don’t think that method works for me though. There's no right or wrong way to do it. You just have to figure out what works best for you.

Q: You've said you that you go directly from one project into the next, but there has to be an in between moment when you shift gears and re-acclimate your thinking from one story to the next. I'd love to hear about your in between moments. How do you take that breath before plowing ahead on a new project?

I really don't have anything specific. It could be as simple as taking a break before typing The End on one and starting the next. Sometimes it's calling it a day after finishing one story before starting the new one the next day. A lot of factors come into play like deadlines. If the deadline on the new story is tight, there's no real time between them. I've also had instances where I finished one story, typed The End then started a brand new story without skipping a beat. I then went back the next day to give the finished story the once over before sending it off.

Q: What do you consider your best work to date?

This is one of those answers that changes from time to time because there is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in each one of these books, but EVIL WAYS always makes the list. It was my first published novel and I poured everything I had into it. I didn't know what I was doing so I was able to break the rules in ways I've since learned I shouldn't. It is still one that readers comment on as they try to guess the identity of the killer.

Q: How much of the story do you think should be clear in a book cover?

I think covers should entice you to pick up the book and flip it over to read the back cover copy, which is why I think the back cover design is just as important as the front cover design. I like covers that have something to do with the story being told, but I don't want to give away big secrets on the cover. It is also important to know what kind of cover works best for which books. Do you need a photo cover, a design cover, or an art cover? Those are important questions to ask before starting. On my novels Evil Ways and Deadly Games!, I felt they needed a photo cover. Eventually, a design cover was used for Evil Ways, which works even better. I learned a lot designing those covers.

Q: How do you feel about tight deadlines? Does it affect your writing?

Deadlines are magnificent motivators. It helps keep you focused. They can also cause great stress if you wait until the last minute to start and last minute panic creeps in and you write like a demon to meet your deadline. I personally prefer to work ahead of deadlines, but I'm not always successful at that.

Q: When you wrote your first book, how did you overcome the curiosity of where and how to start? Did you reach out to other writers? Take a leap of faith and just start writing? Or read as many book about how to write a book as you could find?

When I started writing Evil Ways, I looked at the way other books I read were put together. I did not read a lot of how to books as I wanted to dive in and learn as I was doing. There may have been a little arrogance there that made me think I already knew what I was doing. Yeah. Maybe a little bit of arrogance. Heh. I dove in head first and just started writing with only the loosest of plots in my head. I knew the major beats and followed the characters where they went, which took me in some interesting directions. I wrote linearly, starting at the beginning and pushing forward until I reached the end. I worked hard to make the chapters fit this preconceived notion of how long they should be, which I came to realize hurt the story so, once the epiphany hit that my chapters could be whatever length they needed to be, not that they had to be so many pages each chapter, the story really started to flow better and I went back in and reworked sections, added to the story, and eventually got the story to a place where I was almost happy with it. There was still something that didn't work for me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. One day it finally hit me. The opening chapter, while serviceable, was not strong enough to grab the readers. I wrote a new opening, which changed the chapter numbers on everything in the novel and it worked so much better.

There is no one right or wrong way to write, but this is how I wrote my first published novel. It worked for me and I learned a lot from the experience. Not knowing what you are doing can be very freeing sometimes. 

Q: I have a friend who just recently finished his first 521 page novel. It needs more light editing, but it's good. (He's always written, as long as I've known him, but this is the latest newest thing he's ever written.) What are some good first steps for him towards getting it published? What should he NOT do?

The first step is asking him what his goal is for the novel. If he just wants to get it out there and see what happens, small press publishers or even self-publishing is an option. These are both good ways to get your book out there quickly and see what happens. Small press has a smaller distribution net so the book will be available at on-line retailers only, most likely. That means more hand selling on your friend's part.

Mid-size to larger publishers generally have better distribution, but can be a harder sell. The bigger publishers, for instance, will not look at your book unless it is submitted to them by an agent so your friend would have to find an agent first, then find a publisher. from personal experience, finding an agent has not been easy. I still don't have one and have had difficulty finding an agent who thinks I and my work is sellable, despite the fact that I've had as much work published as I have. Go figure. Also, big publishers have a more lengthy process from sold to in stores, usually 12 - 18 months, sometimes longer. 

I would suggest that your friend start by determining what he wants to do in terms of getting the book out there. Once he knows that, then he can research publishers who handle the types of stories he wants to tell and see if they accept submissions. Or, if he chooses to go the agent route, start by researching agents who represent the type of stories he wants to tell. Remember, not all agents or publishers are one size fits all. They each have their specialties.

A few places where he can check out publishers and agents is Preditors and Editors and Ralan. there may be others as well, but these are good places to start.

As to what he should not do... DO NOT sign with any publisher or agent who requests money from the writer. Money should always... ALWAYS flow to the talent, not from the talent. A vanity press will bleed you dry and not really give you back anything worth the money you put into it. You'd be better off self-publishing and using
your money for pro editing and cover design. The only time money should go from the author to the publisher is if you want to buy books for book signings, conventions, etc. Most publishers will offer discounted copies to their authors for these types of events if... IF the author wants them. It is not required.

If your friend has any specific questions, please pass them along.

Q: If you could take off right now and go somewhere, where would it be?

Somewhere with a beach.

Q: Why do you think Prose is written largely as a solitary pursuit when so much Script writing is done with others?

I think a lot of it is tradition. Of course, I see the benefits of a writer's room as certain writers can get to know certain characters better. It's also great for bouncing ideas off one another, especially as they are writing either 10, 13, 20 or more episodes per
year/season. This can help them to tie things together.

A writer can do that solo, but the process may not move as fast. I know it certainly wouldn't for me.

It can be done though. JMS wrote most of Babylon 5 himself and Rod Serling penned a majority of The Twilight Zone episodes. Plus, even if they aren't writing the episode, showrunners often do a pass on the finished episode without a writing credit. Joss Whedon's hand is all over Buffy episodes, even those he didn't write.

Q:  Why are books so awesome, in your opinion?

This could be a very long answer because I agree wholeheartedly that books are awesome! They can transport you anywhere from the far corners of the universe to your greatest adventure. Books can be an entertaining escape. I love that and I love being part of the people who make them happen.

Q: How do you market your books? Why did you choose this route?

I use any and all means I can to market my work. That means social media, podcasts, signings, attending author/book events, conventions, you name it. It’s all about getting the word out and you do it any way you can.

Q: Would you or do you use a PR agency?

Sure. I don’t mainly because I can’t afford one right now. PR ain’t cheap. Ha!

Q: Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

Talk about your book whenever you can. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but just get out there and talk about it. That’s a good first step.

Q: What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

I’m happy to get a review whether it is good or bad. Obviously, we all hope for the good ones, but I thank everyone who takes the time to write a review. The opinions of readers who buy my books is very important to me.

Q: What’s your views on social media for marketing? Which social network worked best for you?

Social media is a good place to start. Social media cannot be your only means of promotion, however. You only reach a small audience that way. Also, not everything can be a “Buy My Book” post or you will turn people away. Use social media to interact with your readers. Let them get to know you.

I am active on social media. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, and Pinterest, most often. Stop by and say hello and feel free to friend/follow me.

One of my favorite photos I've taken.
Q: How do you relax?

Relax… I don’t know this word.

And I think that is a good place to stop for this round of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff… Do you have any questions you’d like me to answer? Post them here as a comment or send them along to and I’ll answer them in a future installment of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff...

Also, please sign up for my mailing list. Drop me an email at and I'll happily add you to the list. If you’d like to check out my work, you can find my books at AmazonBarnes and NobleGoodreadsSmashwords, and more. To all those who have picked up books and/or left reviews, a big THANK YOU! You are all wonderful and I appreciate each and
every review posted. Thanks for reading the book and for taking the time to write.

The... (what's my line?)
Thanks for listening to me ramble.

Let’s do it again soon.


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